Connie Chung: Skeptical of
by Rachel Coen & Jim
EXTRA Update, from Fairness
and Accuracy in Reporting, December 2002
On her October 7 broadcast, CNN's Connie
Chung took a U.S. congressmember to task for doubting George W.
After Rep. Mike Thompson (D.-Calif.) told
Chung that there seemed to be no evidence that Iraq posed an immediate
danger to the United States or its allies, the anchor responded,
"Well, let's listen to something that President Bush said
tonight, and you tell me if this doesn't provide you with the
evidence that you want."
She then aired a clip from a speech that
Bush made in Cincinnati, in which he stated that "some Al
Qaeda leaders who fled Afghanistan went to Iraq," and claimed
that "Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb-making, in
poisons and deadly gases," adding that "after September
11, Saddam Hussein's regime gleefully celebrated."
After the soundbite, Chung continued:
"Congressman, doesn't that tell you that an invasion of Iraq
Thompson began to respond: "Connie,
we haven't seen any proof that any of this has happened. I have
sat through all the classified briefings on the Armed Services...."
But this appeared to be too much for Chung.
She interrupted Thompson, saying, "You mean you don't believe
what President Bush just said? With all due respect ... you know
... I mean, what...."
Faced with Chung's obvious alarm that
someone might not take Bush's word as definitive proof, Thompson
tried to reassure her: "No, no, that's not what I said....
I said that there has been nothing in the committee hearing briefings
that has substantiated this. If there is substantiation, we need
to see that in Congress, not hear it over the television monitor."
Later in the broadcast, Chung suggested
that skepticism of Bush was equivalent to an endorsement of Saddam
Hussein: "It sounds almost as if you're asking the American
public, 'Believe Saddam Hussein, don't believe President Bush.'"
Rather than insinuating that it's unpatriotic
to question a commander-in-chief, Chung might better have done
her own investigation of whether or not Bush's statements on Iraq
have been trustworthy. That was the approach taken by two reporters
for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, Warren Strobel and Jonathan
Landay, who interviewed more than a dozen military, intelligence
and diplomatic officials on this question (10/8/02).
Strobel and Landay reported that all of
the officials they spoke with charged that "administration
hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein poses-including distorting his links to the Al
Qaeda terrorist network-have overstated the amount of international
support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions
of a new war in the Middle East."
The Knight-Ridder story addressed the
very issue on which Chung chided Thompson for doubting Bush: "The
officials said there's no ironclad evidence that the Iraqi regime
and the terrorist network are working together or that Saddam
has ever contemplated giving chemical or biological weapons to
Al Qaeda, with whom he has deep ideological differences."
"Go back to Czechoslovakia"
While it's Chung's job to ask tough questions
of politicians like Thompson, asking him how he dares to contradict
another government official is hardly the way to go about it.
But that approach is consistent with Chung's style; this wasn't
the first time she'd berated a guest for a supposed lack of patriotism.
Consider Chung's interview with Martina
Navratilova (7/17/02), after the Czech-born tennis star made news
for criticizing the U.S. political system in an interview with
the German newspaper Die Zeit. Chung read back the quote in question:
The most absurd part of my escape from
the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses
free opinion for another. The Republicans in the U.S. manipulate
public opinion and sweep controversial issues under the table.
It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the
question of how much money will come out of it and not on the
questions of how much health, morals or environment suffer as
Chung was forthright about her own reaction
to this, telling Navratilova, "When I read this, I have to
tell you that I thought it was un-American, unpatriotic. I wanted
to say, go back to Czechoslovakia."
Navratilova explained that she loved he
United States and felt it was her duty to speak out, asking Chung,
"Why is that "unpatriotic?" Chung replied, "Well,
you know the old line, love it or leave it."
For Chung, apparently, love means never
having anything critical to say.
Control in the United States